Dear Anna Duggar, Like you, may we learn to inhale grace.

Aug 27

Josh and Anna DuggarDear Anna Duggar,

My hope is that by now you’ve cut yourself off from social media and the litany of voices criticizing your decision to stay with your husband despite the horrible things he has done. Not that you’ve really had much time to process the situation, with everything happening so fast and four very young children to care for. Yet, even the notion that you might forgive Josh is so outrageous, people have assumed your response must be the result of bad parenting by your mother and father or a lack of an education, as made evident by a Facebook post that recently went viral.

According to the collective conscience, there has to be some explanation behind your forgiveness that is rooted in self-deception and desperation. Only a woman who thinks she has no options would even consider forgiving someone like Josh. Apparently there is a level of deceit that is unforgivable in our culture; and many think you should dissolve your marriage without a second thought.

Take heart my friend. As you’ve quickly found out, grace is a scandalous business. Brennan Manning explained this tension between the worldly reaction you’ve encountered and your attempt to follow your faith best when he said, “Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something and someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough.” I get the feeling you know this.

Of course, without question, you have every good reason to leave Josh in the dust. And who knows? You still might. But what many of the naysayers don’t understand, or have forgotten, is that marriage is not necessarily a reflection of what has been done to us but rather what has been done for us. Marriage—for better or worse—illustrates God’s love, for while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Let that sink in for a moment. While we were still sinning, He died for us so that we might be reunited with a holy God who cannot be in the presence of sin, and therefore has taken it upon himself to cover us with his perfect blood love.

God has every reason to leave us in the dust because we all fall short of His glory. Albeit some have fallen further than others; holiness is not graded on a sliding scale—it’s either pass or fail. And news flash:  we all fail! Every single one of us.

Ah! But how can Josh be forgiven for that which he has not repented?  It is precisely the unconditional nature of patience, forbearance, and kindness that makes grace so amazing, it actually leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Grace is a gift that we receive as a result of no effort of our own. Repentance is merely our response upon accepting grace, and hopefully it will be Josh’s.

The only difference between your husband and the rest of us is that most of us haven’t had someone hack into a database to expose our sins publicly. But no matter how far we push back our need for a Savior into the recesses of our minds, God doesn’t need a hacker to know what really goes on in our hearts or when we think no one is watching. He knows every detail. And yet, He loves us anyway, waiting patiently for us to come to repentance, just as you seem to be doing for your husband.

Bravo sweet sister! Despite the pressures of what seems natural—to leave a cheating, lying, hypocrite of a husband—you are calling on God to do what is supernatural and restore both him and your marriage. No Anna, you are not desperate or delusional. You are faithful. Faithful to Josh, but more importantly, faithful to our God who reminds us in His own words that whoever turns a sinner from the error of their ways will save their soul from death, covering a multitude of sins, which includes cheating, lying and hypocrisy  (James 5:19-20).

You are not a victim as so many would have you believe. In Jesus Christ, you are a victor; and I pray one day we can say the same for Josh. As for the rest of us, like you, may we learn to breathe less fire and inhale more grace.

Your sister in Christ,

Dana Matas

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20 Responses to Dear Anna Duggar, Like you, may we learn to inhale grace.

  1. Pingback: » Dear Anna Duggar, Like you, may we learn to inhale grace.

  2. Darcy says:

    What a beautiful message, Dana. Thank you!

  3. Angela says:

    You’re forgetting he is also a pedophile. I know the majority of mommy blogs out there are by Mormon women but seriously this is ridiculous. This man is emotionally abusive, this is not a we’ve been married 25 years and he slept with the secretary kind of thing.

    This man is very sick, I am also a Christian but to encourage her to stay with a man who molests children, cheats on her willingly (with some strange preferences listed remember?) and probably does other things to her we don’t even know about is disgusting. As a domestic violence counselor you make me sad. Sad that women think they aren’t Christians for not forgiving such a disgusting person. She needs to protect her children. Pedophiles don’t stop, ever, no one is safe from their disease. Go get a degree in psychology and start work on your doctorate before you tell a woman to stay with such a sick demented brain.

    • Dana Matas says:

      Angela, we don’t know the intimate details of this situation. We only know the media hype. We also can’t expect a wife to leave her husband without giving her some time to grieve, assess the situation and pray. To act like WE know it all is to play the role of God. Our role is to pray and assist–not to judge.

    • Leigh Ann says:

      Those are pretty harsh and judgemental words coming from a Christian. Last time I checked, God can do the impossible….That includes change the heart of a pedophile. Also, as Christians, we are taught to forgive all sins. I’ve seen the families of murder victims forgive the man who murdered. Just because we forgive doesn’t mean that we ever forget.

    • Jennifer says:

      I would be very interested to know what makes you think “Mommy blogs” are mostly run by “Mormon women”. That seems like a crazy assumption not backed up by facts which kind of discredits every other word in your statement. :-/ Furthermore, the term “pedophile” refers to an adult who is sexually attracted to children. I have not seen anything about Josh Duggar molesting a child after he became an adult therefore the term “pedophile” cannot be applied to him. I am all for people having differing opinions but when someone wants to brag on their education and they make such obvious false statements as these, it simply shows a lack of knowledge rather than the education they are so proud of.

  4. Jessica says:

    Thank you for speaking up for this side of how things can go- it doesn’t happen enough and the message in the viral post you are referring to just broke my heart. I don’t feel like the Lord made women to be so hard hearted and defensive. Broken and hurt women tend to be that way and I hate that for them because there is a better way and a better place to be. No one’s heart should be in that place, especially at the hands of another human. That’s why I am grateful to be able to embrace that I am child of God. Beloved to my Creator. Beloved. He heals my heart and makes it soft again when I’ve been hurt and find myself shifting to “breathing fire” instead of letting Him be the breath in my lungs. He loves me and makes me able to love. If that God, the God of all the universe can forgive any one of us for our wrong doings, our sins, then I think that we ought to follow suit and keep ourselves in his image. God did make us strong and able, but I don’t feel like that was the purpose he gave us those attributes for and none of us should behave that way, man or woman. No matter how long a person is married, it’s for better or worse and this is definitely a worse for them. But, it’s theirs. It’s their covenant, their 4 walls and their choice. While adultery is definitely a biblical reason for divorce, it’s still her choice to believe and trust in the Lord to change and grow Josh and herself. She knew about his past while they were courting and married him still. None of us know them personally and we don’t know the condition of her heart and choice at this point and the last thing she needs is to hear any voice but God’s so she can walk out His will for this situation in their marriage. Sin is sin. Forgiveness is forgiveness – Jesus’ blood covers ALL sins for ALL people and God’s love is enough. Period. All people and their hearts matter.

    It may very well be that she loves Josh and wants to see him healed and isn’t willing to leave him in a broken place. It may very well be that she cares about his relationship with the Lord and their children and wants him to and believes that he can find the other side of this addiction- and there is another side, I can promise that from my own life. There should never be a condition on relationship that says “I’ll love you as long as you love me” that’s not what works. What works is “I’ll love you” and sticking to that, honoring the vows you made because you make them to that person and not on the condition that “well if you do I do too, if you will, I will”- even when it hurts because what he did isn’t about her. It’s about him and how broken he is and where that comes from. He needs Jesus, he needs freedom to let Jesus love him and embrace him and change his heart so that he doesn’t have to stand up and say all the right things, but has the opportunity to encounter the right things without a spotlight and let them become his personal truth. He needs to fill the need for false intimacy that comes from porn and relationships with strangers with true intimacy with God.

    I pray that God’s will would be done for them and He would bring them peace and ease to make it to the next step He has for them.

  5. Emily says:

    It would take a lot of grace for Anna to stay with Josh, that’s for sure. Whether she decides to stay with him or not, I hope she knows that it is within her Biblical rights to leave him, should she so choose. In other words, I hope she’s not staying because she thinks she MUST, and that there’s no other godly option. It is fine and admirable for her to stay – as long as it’s HER CHOICE.

    The Bible never speaks in favor of divorce, but it does say in Matthew 19:8 that marital infidelity is an acceptable reason for divorce. So, Anna would not be sinning if she decided to kick Josh to the curb.

    I think it’s important for Anna to know that she is within her rights to divorce him, because then if she chooses to stay, it is just that: HER CHOICE. If she stays in the marriage for any other reason – even if she thinks it’s God’s will – there is a high potential that incredible resentment will grow in her heart, certainly towards Josh, and possibly towards other members of her family, too.

    God bless Anna if she remains in her marriage. But God bless her also if she chooses to leave. Frankly, she might have to, if Josh is indeed as sexually warped as he seems to be. If Josh really cares about Anna, the fact that she would be willing to leave him might be the only thing that would bring him to his senses, as I’m not convinced that whatever “rehabilitation” facility he is at will do much good. It obviously didn’t do much good the first time, after he was molesting his sisters. So, I don’t have a lot of hope that it’s going to work much better this time around, either.

    • Dana Matas says:

      I agree; it is Anna’s choice and not for us to judge her choices, especially given our very limited view into the situation. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ocean says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful blog, Dana. I just have a few thoughts on the subject.

      I have read quite a few comments on the ‘net’- and even some on here regarding divorce being allowed by God in cases of adultery. This is a fallacy that has been taught so often that it has been accepted by the majority as true. However, ALL the verse quoted as proving that excuse says is, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32)

      WHY does the marital unfaithfulness not cause adultery? Because it has already occurred. That’s it. All other reasons for divorcing cause the spouse to become an adulteress (Because at that point in time, they really couldn’t survive in society without a husband very well.) But in the situation where adultery has already happened, it doesn’t cause it, because it’s already the case.

      NOWHERE in that verse does it state that divorce is ok, acceptable, approved. Yet that’s what it’s used to validate!

      It is a dangerous thing to cherry pick verses. When one studies the various verses on divorce in the scriptures, all speak against divorce. God hates it!

      1) 1 Cor 7:39, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.”

      2) Rom 7:2-3, “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.”

      3) “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (Mal 2:16)

      Now does that mean there aren’t times that a spouse/children should flee an abusive husband? No. There are certainly times a separation for safety is in order, but that is not the same thing as divorce. (Nor is it remarriage). “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” 1 Cor 7:10-13

      In Mark 10:2-12, Jesus addresses the subject of divorce, including the verses in Deuteronomy (24:1-4) that seem to support divorce,
      “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
      “What did Moses command you?” he replied.
      They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
      **”It was because your hearts were hard** that **Moses** wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.
      Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
      When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.
      He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:2-12) [emphasis mine]

      So, **Moses** allowed divorce, but only because people refused to forgive one another and work things out. The Bible clearly states that God’s viewpoint is that once a couple are married- HE has joined them together, and we people are not to separate them. God’s whole focus is on redemption and forgiveness. Yes, He’s just, and yes, He metes out discipline where due, but the main focus of the Bible is on His Son Jesus’ redemptive purpose. This is a God who commands us to forgive 70×7… but that’s suddenly not supposed to apply to marriage?! Think again.

      It is NOT an easy teaching. Marriage can be excruciatingly hard. That is why “The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matt 19:10)

      And it is definitely NOT a popular teaching today. But it IS there, nonetheless.

      And does that mean I think Josh should have carte blanche to walk all over her? No. She’s going to have to make some hard choices including regarding forgiveness. Which brings me to the next point.

      Forgiveness is often misinterpreted, too. It’s NOT forgetting what’s been done and trustingly being a doormat. It’s also NOT freely given when there’s no repentance on the part of the offending party. Luke 17:3-4 says, “Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and *if he repent*, forgive him.”

      Forgiveness *IS* choosing to NOT retaliate in kind towards the offender. It’s choosing to realize that we all are fallen and sinful, and having received God’s mercy towards us, we should also extend it to others. “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Eph 4:32
      With true forgiveness, there can (& should) be firm discussion, and boundaries/consequences/criteria put into place to help rebuild trust.

      There is also quarter given for separation (not divorce or remarriage)- but it is typically used with the motivation of working towards reconciliation, or in a relationship where there is a safety risk for the spouse/children, ” To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” 1 Cor 7:10-11

      Anyway. Prayers for Anna. She’s got a tough row to hoe now because of her husband’s choices. May God grant her grace, comfort and wisdom in her time of need.

  6. Joe B. says:

    This is a great article underscoring the importance of grace. But according to the Bible there are a few critical steps before the step of forgiving a sinner. Please consider this that if this husband has not repented and his wife has taken him back she may actually be denying him the opportunity to be redeemed by becoming a mature man in Christ. 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2 along with Matthew 18: 15-17 make clear what is required in dealing with a man who has sinned. It’s clear a man must be convicted of his sin, then comes disassociation until he repents. Once he repents then comes comfort, reassurance of love and finally forgiveness. I’d say Anna has skipped from step 1 past step 2 the most critical step 3 down to steps 4 and 5. Although that’s really very kind and loving it may actually be horribly mistaken in terms of what’s best for her husband and her marriage as well as her family.

    • Dana Matas says:

      All good points Joe, but she hasn’t taken him back as is–he is in long term rehab. She just hasn’t left. Her decision will require some of the steps you referred to, which take time and prayer. The majority of people are calling for her to leave and are insulting her publicly for having not done so already. Shame on them. As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with right now.

  7. Diane says:

    Grace isn’t magic and if Josh wants grace, he has to repent. We all are required to forgive in order to find peace, but forgiveness does not mean hanging around to be abused more. And yes Anna is a victim. She is a victim of infidelity. Infidelity causes heart break, divorce, and broken families. Josh broke his family. He broke his wife’s heart and the trust of his children. They will likely be scarred for the rest of their lives.There are so many pieces that have to be put back together. God is not just going to wave a magic grace wand and Josh will be all better and their family healed. God does not do that. He allows us to make choices and then let’s us reap the consequences. Sure we all sin, but in our day too many people are justifying sexual sins to be nothing greater than the sin of getting annoyed with your children or neighbor. As a result families are broken. Don’t justify Josh. God does not. Josh must repent. Grace won’t magically lead Josh to repentance. Josh will have to make that choice all on his own, and if he doesn’t, there is no hope for him. As for Anna, I agree that her choice is hers and I am sure if she seeks for answers God will lead her to whatever decision fixes things the best they can be fixed.

    • Dana Matas says:

      Several people are getting hung up on the details of which they know nothing about. The point of this post is not to justify bad behavior–Josh will have to deal with the consequences, forgiven or not. The point is to create some space for Anna to make her own decisions without judgement/criticism, and for others to be open to the possibility that God can change hearts even in the worst of circumstances. Did we forget that He is God? Who are we to demand a certain outcome? Josh has been a dirt bag and may very well continue to be a dirt bag; in which case, who wouldn’t want Anna to leave. But that is between him, Anna, his family and God. And it is quite possible that God is using this situation and Anna’s grace (which comes from the Holy Spirt) to bring Josh and others to know the errors of their ways, repent and follow the Lord. Just maybe. Let’s leave room for maybe. Let’s pray it is so.

    • Janie S says:

      I’m not sure I agree that “Grace will not lead Josh to repentance.” I think grace is exactly what leads us to repentance. Otherwise I suppose Christ would not have had to die….”While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And for good heavens, I don’t think I could ever declare anyone to be without hope. Within the framework of the gospel there is always hope. Even for Josh Duggar. We just don’t get to determine what that looks like. All things being equal, to Dana’s point, we need to withhold judgment for what we don’t know. Jesus said, “He who is without sin can cast the first stone.” I for one am willing to set my stone down.

  8. Devon Lavigne says:

    Hi Dana – very much appreciate your letter and blog. When writing in such a public venue please watch your grammar. I was with you until I read “its ” used incorrectly. I know it sounds incredibly petty with regard to your topic but putting your words and opinion out in public means the grammar and spelling need to be bang-on so as not to take away from your message. (Especially when Anna’s education is being examined!). I agree with you btw.

  9. Janie S says:

    Well spoken, thoughtful and articulate Dana. “Breathe less fire and inhale more grace.” Now that’s a million dollar line.

  10. Karen says:

    This was well said. The strength of woman with a gentle & quiet spirit isn’t always displayed in her ability or willingness to fight back. It comes in doing what no one else would do. Grace is amazing if we’re willing to be patient and allow God to play it out. Think of Hosea & how many times God sent him to find Gomer. It’s one of my favorite stories. Great words.

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